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Olowokandi a hot commodity

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Posted: Thursday June 18, 1998 05:57 PM


The hot commodity in the upcoming draft remains Pacific center Michael Olowokandi, who has Toronto, Denver, Philadelphia, Boston and Golden State in hot pursuit of his rights. Even the Clippers, who have the number one pick and were a lock to take Arizona point guard Mike Bibby, have taken a long look at the 7-footer.

Meanwhile, sources tell me, Vancouver, which has the No. 2 pick and probably controls Olowokandi's future, has considered keeping him for themselves, and dealing their own center, Big Country Reeves, to Phoenix for point guard Steve Nash. Since Reeves' contract is in the neighborhood of $11 million a season, that would have also freed up money for Vancouver to sign forward Shareef Abdur Rahim, who can become a free agent this summer.

Austin likes that tune

The rebuilding of the Utah Jazz will have to wait at least one more season. Utah passed on Orlando's 13th pick, and was instead trying to swap its own 29th pick for a second-round selection. Why?

Sources tell me Utah is trying to squirrel away funds to pay free agent center Ike Austin, who has an offseason home near Salt Lake City and counts Karl Malone as one of his closest friends. Austin was looking for about $8 million a season, but friends say he would take less to play for Utah. The Jazz, who will save $3.5 million by not re-signing Chris Morris, could probably come up with something between $4 and a half to $5 million a season. It remains to be seen whether that is too deep a discount for a center who will be 29 in August and has never enjoyed a big NBA pay day.

And now for some notes from around the league:

  • The Houston Rockets would love to sign Rod Strickland, but they feel the Wizards will re-sign him. So they have turned their attention to free agent Kevin Johnson, who will be renounced by the Suns on July 1.

  • The Celtics continue to try to peddle their No. 10 draft selection and Travis Knight, and would be willing to absorb some of Knight's contract to make it work.

  • Word out of Sacramento is that power forward Chris Webber is still not happy about his trade from Washington to the Kings, and is pushing to be traded yet again.

  • The Pacers, who pushed the Bulls to the brink of elimination, plan to work quickly to lock up free agent center Rik Smits and point guard Travis Best, who have both told management they want to return next season.

  • Look for Chicago to sign European prospect Dragan Tarlac, regardless of whether Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen return to the team.


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